Declutter to Clear Your Life,
Not Just Your Living Space
A guest blog by Iris Price.
Japanese decluttering expert Marie Kondo says in her latest book, “The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up,” that “A dramatic reorganization of the home causes correspondingly dramatic changes in lifestyle and perspective.” By refreshing your outlook and making your life easier to navigate, decluttering your home ultimately gives you more time to accomplish the things you really want. But first you have to know what you really want.
Many of Kondo’s methods may seem a bit odd to Westerners. Right away, for example, you sense there is something too genteel about referring to purging your house as “tidying.” She encourages you to commune with your stuff, item by item, and even thank it for its former service as you toss it in the giveaway bag. But her unusual mix of ritual and introspection inspire Kondo’s techniques for ridding your life of extraneous, stress-producing “stuff” once and for all.
If you think the amount of clutter in the average Japanese house, tiny by American standards, can’t possibly rival that of our burgeoning McMansions and offsite storage units, you may be right. Nevertheless, the Japanese are really good at cramming the closets and corners of their homes. Square foot for square foot they probably have more clutter than we do. Just take it with a grain of salt when she says you should do your entire tidying in one shot.
To get the most from Kondo’s book, don’t worry about following her methods to the letter. The main takeaway points are these:
Determine why you want to declutter and organize. Keep digging to get at the heart of what motivates you. Ask yourself why you want a tidy house. Is it so you can spend more time with your family and less time hunting for things you’ve lost? After every answer ask yourself “why?” again and again. The final answers will reveal your values and passions.
Declutter by category, going from the easiest items to purge to the hardest: clothes first because they are easily replaced, then books, followed by papers and documents, all other household articles large and small, and finally, keepsakes. You’ll hone your decision-making skills as you progress through each category, and by the time you get to those really tough choices --like whether to give away the cake plate your stingy mother-in-law gifted you 20 years ago -- you’ll know without much hesitation what to do.
Deciding means asking yourself whether each object makes you joyful at this point in time. What made you happy ten years or 10 months ago may do nothing to inspire you today. Whether it’s functional or potentially useful is irrelevant using Kondo’s measure. What counts is whether an item “sparks joy.” If you no longer feel the love, ditch it. Open your life to new possibilities without the clutter.
Don’t even think about storage solutions until you’ve gotten through the entire purge. If you’re conscientious about discarding anything that does not “spark joy,” you are likely to find that your present storage spaces – closets and drawers – are more than ample for your new needs.
Once you make it through the process, Kondo says, you will never have to do this kind of extensive decluttering again. You will have a heightened sense of awareness and automatically weed out during your daily routine the things that no longer hold meaning for your life.
Iris Price is a single Baby Boomer whose antidote to a lack of retirement funds was to launch a long-delayed career as a writer. While others her age concoct bucket lists and travel the world, she bought a new-construction home and obsessively creates lists of must-have home improvements and personal realization goals. She specializes in writing about home services and self-motivation.
Have you read this book? Thoughts? We'd love to hear your take on it!
And about that folding, check out the how to on YouTube.